Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/511

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
489
"SCIENTIFIC CHARITY."

investigation of social questions, we have lately come to hear of a "new political economy," and very lately of a "new charity." The former is said to be less "dismal" and the latter more "scientific" than their respective progenitors, and it is hoped that a mutual exchange of the surest conclusions and the best methods in each will result in the improvement of both.

The title of this paper has been put in quotation-marks because it is believed by some that no such thing as "scientific charity" exists, and, when these two words are joined, that either the adjective or the substantive or both must lose all natural significance. They say that those interested in science and those interested in charity have an equal right to complain of the phrase, and that its use is only another instance of the confused thinking that results from a tendency to count our sciences before they are hatched. But right or wrong the term exists, and will serve as well as another to stand for a certain phase of recent charitable work. It has come to be much used by the members of the National Conference of Charities and Correction; and it seems unlikely that one more profanation of the word "science" can. add much to the exasperation of those who contend for its more restricted application.

Social pathology is not an attractive study. The failure of the unfit to survive forms the subject of the dreariest chapter in social science. Indeed, it is so entirely dreary that it is seldom written. Those calling themselves scientists have been very willing to leave the care of defectives and incapables to the philanthropists, and equally willing to complain of the latter for alleged bad management. Those interested in the new charity are endeavoring to devise such methods of work as will make benevolence more certainly beneficent, and such methods of investigation as will enable them to give at least an approximate answer to Greville's question, "Whither will philanthropy lead us?" Certainly in the past it has led to many quagmires, and much has been and still more could be written on the subject of philanthropy, as a failure.

"We can have as many paupers as we will pay for." The truth of this somewhat frequently quoted statement one might possibly reach by a study of his own inner consciousness. Such a study would show, probably, the truth of Emerson's assertion that "men are as lazy as they dare to be," and thence, by deductive reasoning, we might prove the correctness of the conclusion indicated. But the new political economy is inclined to ask that a priori reasoning should be re-enforced by reasoning from observed facts. Now, fortunately, the truth we are trying to establish is capable of demonstration by experiment. The apparatus needed is very simple, and consists merely of a pocketful of five--